Tammi Thiele - A Graveyard Rabbit

I recently received an email from Tammi Thiele of Rogers, Arkansas who asked permission to use one of my stories in connection with a very unusual hobby she has. We corresponded back and forth several times, and in turn, I asked Tammi’s permission to share some information about her hobby. I’m sure there will be those who read this that think this is a very strange and morbid way to spend time, but personally, I found it quite interesting. Here is what Tammi has to say about being a "Graveyard Rabbit."

"I am originally from Odessa, Texas, but moved in 1988 to Rogers, Arkansas. For the past 18 years, I have been a self-employed nail tech. I love my job and the people I get to meet. It's a great way to express my artsy side on a regular basis while making a living too. My husband, Tom, has been a journalist for many years. He has written one book and is working on a second. Our wedding ceremony took place in a cemetery on Halloween, my favorite holiday. I wore a modified Victorian mourning dress and he wore a Victorian styled outfit. My daughter, Katie, is an intelligent, beautiful, and extremely energetic nine year old.

"My cemetery wandering originally began for photography purposes. I love the art you can find in cemeteries. They are like forgotten museums of art. Even after getting home with the photographs, searching for information about the person and the monument brings these questions to mind ... Who carved it? What do the symbols on it mean? What was the person like? Sometime my searches don’t turn up anything exciting, and then other times, I’ll find a monument that will takes my breath away. I prefer the older sections where people were way more involved in the making and selecting of the markers. So its always an adventure when I go out looking. I've been interested in cemeteries for as long as I can remember. As a child, my dad would take my brother and I to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. We would spend hours trying to find the oldest stones. It was like a game for us, so I learned at an early age that cemeteries were not the scary places that many people believe them to be.

"As a teenager I would spend hours wandering around trying to imagine what the people were like that belonged with the stones I would photograph. I have always been drawn to the older sections with the elegantly carved stones and individuality that can be found in almost every cemetery. As I would wander amongst the stones, grand images of Victorian women in long elegant dresses and gentlemen in the finest of attire would fill my mind. These imaginary people would wander through the cemeteries right along with me paying their respects to the long deceased family members. As I grew older the whole concept of death and what happens afterward became a fascinating subject to me. So I decided to go to college to obtain a degree in Forensic Anthropology. Sadly I choose not to work in the field, but it has opened my eyes to so many different aspects about death that I would never have thought about before.

"Now as an adult, I still enjoy roaming around cemeteries photographing the unique stones. I love the angels most. But I am always excited to find a mystery that makes me want to know more about that particular person. Thankfully, the internet has made it much easier to discover the information that sheds light on the peoples lives.

"My family and friends have always thought my obsession with cemeteries is odd and a bit morbid. But I am okay with that. I just say they haven't figured out how interesting they can be. My daughter, Katie, has her own camera she likes to use. Hopefully she is a Graveyard Rabbit in the making. I enjoy this hobby so much that I have recently founded a small group of like-minded individuals called Grave Addicts of Arkansas. That way there is never a shortage of people to wander the cemeteries with me or someone to chat about my new finds with. We venture out almost every week looking for new places to go and new mysteries to find.

"I joined the Graveyard Rabbits Association to broaden my network of like minded friends. And so far I have learned much from the group and I look forward to learning more. And the best way to learn about neat cemeteries are from the ones who love them. I believe this will be a hobby that will stay with me for the full duration of my life. Then, hopefully, someone will enjoy my headstone as much as I have enjoyed others."

More about Tammi can be found on the internet at www.escapetothesilentcities.blogspot.com.

Tammi Thiele took this photograph of a tombstone found in the Bell Cemetery in West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma.  The short inscription tells a lot about the person buried there.